Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in his visit to South Sudan this week urged the people of God in the east-central African country to continue to work toward building a united nation by embracing a spirit of peace and reconciliation.

Speaking to the media after his meeting with South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Monday, Aug. 14, Parolin underscored the importance of peace and reconciliation in building a stable country.

“Embrace the spirit of peace and reconciliation in order to build a harmonious society in the country,” said Parolin, who is in the country for a four-day official visit, in his address in Juba.

He urged South Sudanese leaders to fully implement the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), which was signed in 2018 to end the country’s civil war and to sustain lasting peace in the country.

Parolin left Juba on Tuesday, Aug. 15, and headed to the Diocese of Malakal, where he had been invited by Bishop Stephen Nyodho to meet refugees from war-torn Sudan.

Thousands of returnees and refugees displaced by the ongoing war between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are being hosted in the Diocese of Malakal, which serves South Sudan’s Upper Nile State. The number of those in dire need of humanitarian assistance continues to rise daily.

Parolin will end his four-day visit to South Sudan on Thursday, Aug. 17, in the Diocese of Rumbek, where he will preside over Mass and meet with Church leaders and more government officials.

In an Aug. 13 interview with ACI Africa ahead of Parolin’s visit, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen, the apostolic nuncio to South Sudan and Kenya, reiterated the message of Pope Francis to South Sudanese leaders, saying: “The message of the Holy Father remains the same. It is the message of reconciliation as indicated in the motto for his visit that ‘I pray that all may be one.’”

The nuncio recalled that the Holy Father’s visit to South Sudan in February brought people of diverse backgrounds together and that the Holy Father’s intention was that all South Sudanese “truly become one nation of South Sudan.” 

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“In order to achieve the unity of the South Sudanese, the people need to first reconcile with one another,” he added.

Van Megen, who was appointed apostolic nuncio to South Sudan and Kenya in 2019, urged the people of God in the country to look at themselves as brothers, not as members of the many ethnic groups in the country.

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s partner news agency in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.